A powerful technique used by most modern B-3 organists is to tap
rhythmically on a bass pedal while playing the actual bass line on the
lower manual using the left hand. Only occasionally do they play actual
bass notes on the pedals. The B pedal is good for tapping due to
its unusual, resonant sound. The pedal note and the left-hand note are
often different, so you have to hit the pedal lightly with a flat foot
to get its signature percussive attack without sounding a pitched
note that might be dissonant. If you have a clone with a MIDI
pedalboard instead of a vintage Hammond, the technique will feel a bit
different but will still work. When executed properly, it adds punch,
pop, and funk.
Sheet Music Notes
top staff is for the upper manual of the organ, the middle is for the
lower manual, and the bottom staff is for the bass pedals.
- Where you see an X on the note, tap the pedal without sounding an actual note.
- Drawbar settings above each staff use the standard nine-number notation. Each equals how far each drawbar is pulled out.
- Vibrato and Leslie suggestions (e.g., “C3 Fast”) are provided as well.
- Click sheet music for larger images.
1. Brazil via NYC
Ex. 1 uses a “clarinet” setting from the original
Hammond Organ owner’s manual. Ethel Smith popularized this sound on her
most famous recording, “Tico Tico.” The right hand spins a twisty melody
while the left hand plays bass.
2. Triple Threat
In Ex. 2 we will actually play the bass with
our feet and hold down chords with the left hand. The right hand uses
another Ethel Smith registration, a variation on what’s known as the
“tibia” setting. (The full tibia setting uses the last drawbar as
well). If you push in the lowest two drawbars on the lower manual, you
can hold chords in your left hand in a range that’s transposed up enough
that you don’t have to cross your hands.
The drawbar stop in Ex. 3 is straight from classic ’70s soul music. This one is almost the opposite of the common 83 8000 000 setting and has a very hollow sound. Here, the foot just taps low D notes on the strong beats for emphasis. The bass registration uses a little of the 5–1/3' drawbar in the bass for added punch.
4. What Hip Is
Ex. 4 takes a cue from original Tower of Power
organist Chester Thompson. The top manual uses what’s called the “silk”
setting. The left hand alternates between the thumb and second finger
for the bass line. The tricky part is that the foot alternates between
the toe and heel on the bass pedals. Make sure to keep your hands and feet relaxed and balanced.
5. Half Fat
Ex. 5 isn’t all drawbars out, nor is it out of
Jimmy Smith’s playbook—it falls somewhere between. I’m using it over a
Gospel/blues “shout” riff—try playing this near the end of someone’s sax
solo. The feet tap quarter-notes and occasionally play a line.
Experiment with where to pedal and look for different tricks as you
practice. Here’s a favorite of mine: At the end of the night, rest your
tired thigh to the left of the bench and tap the Db pedal with your toe!
“The cut for organ pedal-tapping technique is
‘Squib Cakes’ by Tower of Power. Check out the middle part where it’s
just drums and Chester Thompson on organ,” says Brian Charette,
who has performed and recorded with Joni Mitchell, Lou Donaldson, Bucky
Pizzarelli, Michael Bublé, and Rufus Wainwright, in addition to leading
his own jazz groups. Visit Brian at kungfugue.com.